Plane crash in Venezuela killed 46 people

By Anastasia Tomazhenkova: A plane carrying 46 people took off afternoon and was reported missing 30 minutes later. The plane crashed in the mountains of western Venezuela, where the wreckage was spotted by helicopter on Friday. All aboard were believed killed.

Firefighter Jhonny Paz claimed that the impact was direct, the aircraft was practically pulverized. He said officials believe there are no survivors and are sending a helicopter back to the area after a refueling stop.

The spot where the plane went down in the mountains is difficult to reach, said Noel Marquez, the emergency management director in Merida state. He said search teams on their way to the zone would determine more conclusively "in what condition the aircraft ended up."

The wreckage was located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the airport in the Andean city of Merida, from where the plane departed, Gen. Ramon Vina, head of the civil aviation authority told reporters. Vina also said officials believe there were no survivors.

The French-made ATR 42-300 carrying 43 passengers and three crew members took off Thursday afternoon bound for Caracas and was reported missing 30 minutes later, officials said. The flight was to have taken an hour and 45 minutes.

Once the plane took off, the control tower received no further communication from the pilot, said Jorge Alvarez, president of Santa Barbara, a small airline that covers domestic routes in Venezuela.

The weather was normal for Merida on Thursday, with some areas sunny and fog at higher elevations, said Lt. Luis Uzcategui of the Merida fire department.

"In that mountainous area there always tends to be more fog due to the altitude," Uzcategui said.

Relatives and friends of those on board gathered in tears, some of them embracing, at Simon Bolivar International Airport near Caracas.

Among the passengers was the mayor of a small town in Merida state, Alexander Quintero, and his 11-year-old boy.